With House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA-7) resigning his position after losing the primary election on Tuesday – he’ll leave the leadership on July 31st – Republican Conference replacement elections have been quickly scheduled for June 19. This leaves little time for a campaign to develop, but within a closed voting universe where everyone knows all participants an elongated campaign time segment is unnecessary.
Currently, Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA-23) has announced his intention to run for Cantor’s position with the outgoing Leader’s backing. Meanwhile, House Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA-5) stated that she will remain in her current post. The same is true for House Budget Committee chairman and former vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan (R-WI-1).
The Texas delegation is deciding who, if anyone, to back from their delegation against McCarthy – either Rules Committee and former National Republican Congressional Committee chairman Pete Sessions (R-TX-32) or Financial Services chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX-5). Both men hail from Dallas. A leadership candidate brandishing support from a united Texas delegation would be formidable. Late last night unconfirmed, but well-placed, sources suggest that Hensarling has decided not to pursue a run.
McCarthy has vulnerabilities, though he must be viewed as the leading candidate. His detractors say his job performance as Whip is lacking. While others may concede such, they counter with the observation that his talents and attributes blend better with the Majority Leader’s position rather than running a Whip team. Conservative McCarthy opponents say that electing him will signal that the Conference is continuing to languish in their current lackluster pattern, a trend that at least central Virginia voters overwhelmingly rejected on Tuesday night.
Additionally in his favor, Rep. McCarthy is a strong fundraiser with the potential to reach an even higher level. With Cantor on the way out – the Majority Leader was the House’s top fundraiser next to Speaker John Boehner – the party has a major void to fill. A Lone Star State alternative, however, also carries major fundraising ability especially with Sessions coming from the wealthy North Texas region.
In this configuration of Majority Leader candidates, it certainly appears room exists for at least one more candidate. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH-4), long thought of as a conservative mover, has yet to be heard from. Another potential is Rep. Tom Price (R-GA-6), a former Georgia state Senate Majority Leader. Price passed on a chance to run for the Senate because he believed in building a substantial career in the House, so he must be viewed as a potential candidate for one of the open leadership positions. The fact that both men have yet to make his intentions known suggest neither will run.
The Race for Whip
With McCarthy running for Leader, his Whip post must be vacated. Therefore, a replacement election for this position will also occur on the 19th. Here, it appears the leading candidates are Chief Deputy Majority Whip Peter Roskam (R-IL-6) and New Orleans area Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA-1). Rumors abound that a deal might be in the works to put Roskam in the Whip’s chair while slotting Scalise as his Chief Deputy. Others discount such talk suggesting that Scalise, with his strength among conservatives, is actually the man to beat.
With leadership elections arising in the wake of Cantor’s surprising defeat, but nonetheless during the middle of campaign season, the Republicans are making a smart move in allowing only a small time window for the leadership contests. On the other hand, the fast schedule likely plays to McCarthy’s benefit and could be the true underlying reason for moving so quickly. The after effect of McCarthy replacing Cantor, however, may suggest to conservative voters that Washington still hasn’t gotten the message their voters so decisively delivered in Tuesday’s historic election result.